Glossary

Queer – Queer is a reclaimed word that is used today to describe any sexuality, gender identity or expression different from that acceptable in mainstream culture. It is used to encompass individuals that could be described as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, intersex, asexual, pansexual, polysexual, or questioning. It has come to be used as an umbrella term for all peoples who reject and resist against heteronormativity.

Youth empowerment – Youth empowerment is an attitudinal, structural, and cultural process whereby young people gain the ability, authority, and agency to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people, including youth and adults. Youth empowerment is often addressed as a gateway to intergenerational equity, civic engagement and democracy building. Different focuses include youth-led media, youth rights, youth councils, youth activism, youth involvement in community decision-making, as well as other methods.

Youth led – Youth-led organizational structure is a radical way to encourage sustainability, leadership development, and a sense of purpose with the constituency the organization is created to serve. Rather than an adult-led model whereby adults may spearhead projects or programs designed for young people, a youthled model restructures the power within the organization to privilege the voices, ideas, and decisions of young people. Youth-led includes youth decision-making at every level including board and staff.

Queer-positive – Queer-positivity is a mindset that directly challenges heterosexism, homophobia, and heteronormativity. By questioning ideals of assimilation and conformity, a queer-positive outlook is one that celebrates queer people and communities for its diversity, rather than striving for mainstream acceptance or integration.

Heterosexism – A system of attitudes, behaviors, cultural norms, and institutional practices which target and subordinate LGBTQ people because of their sexuality and/or gender expression. Heterosexism is based on the assumption of the normalcy of heterosexuality and occurs individually, culturally and institutionally.

Internalized heterosexism – The process though which LGBTQ people learn to believe the stereotypes, myths, and subordinate social status generated and maintained by a dominant, heteronormative society.

Heteronormativity – Of or pertaining to the practices and institutions that legitimize and privilege
heterosexuality, heterosexual relationships, and traditional gender roles as fundamental and “natural” within society. Heteronormativity also implies that people fall into only one of two distinct and complementary sexes (male and female) with each having certain natural roles in life.

Cisgender – An adjective used to refer to someone who associates and is comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth. “Cisgender” is used to contrast “transgender” on the gender spectrum.

LGBT – An acronym which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. It is often used interchangeably with the term “queer”.

Ally, Allyship – A person whose attitudes and behaviors are anti-”ism” and who is committed to increasing their own understanding of the issues related to oppression, and is actively working toward eliminating oppression on many levels e.g. confronting heterosexism, transphobia and biphobia. Allyship must be earned and recognized by the community they are working in solidarity with.

People of color – A term that was born out of the anti-racism movement used to describe non-white peoples. The term is meant to be inclusive among non-white groups, emphasizing common experiences of racism and resistance against it. People of color is preferred to both non-white and minority because it frames the subject positively; non-white defines people in terms of what they are not (white), and minority, by its very definition, carries a subordinate connotation.

Privilege – Privilege refers to the concrete benefits of access to resources and social rewards and the power to shape the norms and values of society that people in the dominant classes (white, male, heterosexual, cisgendered, wealthy, etc.) receive, unconsciously or consciously.

Institutional Power – The power to define reality, norms and culture. Those with institutional power (white, male, heterosexual, cisgendered, wealthy, etc.) are privileged and contribute to the systems that oppress people i.e. heterosexism, racism, sexism, etc.